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From an advertisment in an industry trade journal.

Hand held real time nondestructive chemical analysis

Up to 30 or more elements may be quantified simultaneously by measuring the characteristic fluorescence x-rays emitted by a sample. Thermo Scientific NITON x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers quantify elements ranging from magnesium (element number 12 in the periodic table) through plutonium (element number 94), measuring fluorescent x-ray energies from twelve hundred fifty electron volts (1.25 keV) up to 100 keV. NITON Analyzers also measure the elastic (Raleigh) and inelastic (Compton) scatter x-rays emitted by the sample during each measurement to determine, among other things, the approximate density and percentage of the light elements in the sample.

This should so a long way toward identification of that piece of steel you have been concerned about. For more information click here. Tell them you heard about it on IForgeIron.com

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X-Ray fluorescence is overkill for steel alloy identification. Niton will rent you a unit for as little as $1000/week. Anybody in? .... I didn't think so.

Spark ablation spectroscopy is more appropriate for the blacksmith's requirements. For the cheap blacksmith, spark testing with a set of test coupons. Probably good for carbon, molybdenum, tungsten, but not vanadium or chromium. I decided to put together a little kit. Any interest or suggestions?:)

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>cheaper to buy new steel with a certificate of analysis.

It depends on how much you have. For example, S-7 in useful sizes like 1/2" round is $21.98 a pound from onlinemetals. It doesn't take very many pounds of this to add up to a test, especially if you have a buddy in the biz. I used to work with a guy who had an atomic emission spectrometer, and I would never have asked him to test my steel. The sample prep was just too expensive. But I hear that those scrap testers can do it for $50-70 a shot. I knew a fellow with 1500 lbs of single type scrap, and all he did was give the scrap guy a few pounds when it was found to be valuable.

On the other hand, 5160 is a lot less expensive. Riverside Machine advertises it for $4.20 per pound in 5 foot sticks of 1/4x1. I know a smith who makes all his tools out of old coil spring. Some is good, some is bad, and he never buys stuff from the vendor. He can tell the difference between 1080 and 5160 by feel on the hardy as the steel is cooling down. Cracks? He lets the apprentices find those the hard way. Good learning experience.

By the way, I doubt that the small vendors will provide you with certs. You really won't get those from the tailgater's either. But, maybe the more relevant information is when some bladesmiths get together and say: watch out, xxxx's 5160 has inclusions.

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